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Shenandoah National Park

Skyline Drive: Milepost 103Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile road that runs the entire length of the National Park Service's Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, generally along the ridge of the mountains.  The scenic drive is particularly popular in the fall when the leaves are changing colors.  Annually, over two million people visit the Skyline Drive, which has been designated a National Scenic Byway.

Entry
Major entry points to Skyline Drive are as follows:

As of June 2007, the entry fee for all vehicles is $15 for a single car, and $10 for motorcycles. Passes, which are valid for unlimited entries within a seven-day period, are issued. Payment may be made with cash, credit, or debit cards. A year-long pass can be purchased for $30 (A Season Pass will admit 2 motorcycles).

Mileposts
On the west side (right when traveling from north to south) of the drive, mileposts are present.  They are numbered from 0 to 105 (north to south).  These are the reference points to directions in the drive.

Driving precautions
The speed limit is 35 miles per hour.  The road is very treacherous and hence such a limit is enforced.  One might see stopped vehicles in the road either enjoying the wildlife or just turning to stop at an overlook.  Bicycles, vehicles and pedestrians share the road.  This requires extra precaution.  There are also many deer, bear, and other wildlife crossing the road, which can appear with no prior warning.  The speed limit within the park is also strictly enforced by park police.

Experience
As the name suggests, the road takes a winding path along the mountaintops of the Blue Ridge Mountains east of the Shenandoah River.  There are nearly seventy-five overlooks throughout the drive. Some of the most spectacular views of the valley can be seen. During the drive (especially in early morning and late evening) wildlife can be seen on the road. Interestingly, Shenandoah National Park has one of the densest populations of black bears documented within the U.S., although these bears stay deep in the forest.

Apart from the drive, one can hike and camp.  There are numerous trails throughout, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail, which follows the road's path.  Biking and horseback riding are other recreational activities which are allowed on the road.  There are also visitors centers, cabins for rent, and even restaurants (the one at the Skyland Lodge gives diners a spectacular vista of the valley south of Luray).

There is a tunnel named "Mary's Rock Tunnel" at mile 31 of the drive.  The clearance is 12'8". It is 670 feet long.

At Rockfish Gap, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins, and continues a similar path along ridge tops through Virginia and into North Carolina, terminating at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Though the land immediately around the parkway is protected by the National Park Service, much of the parkway goes near private land, but it is, nonetheless, quite rustic and charming.

History
Begun as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, construction of the Skyline Drive was both difficult and dangerous. Huge cuts were made into the sides of knolls and peaks to allow for a road wide enough to handle traffic. The work began in 1931, and the final section (from Swift Run Gap to Rockfish Gap) was completed and opened in 1939. The Civilian Conservation Corps also had a hand in the construction of Skyline Drive. The CCC graded the slopes on both sides of the roadway, built guardrails, constructed overlooks, and planted thousands of trees and shrubs along the parkway.

Since user fees are charged at entry points along the Skyline Drive, the Drive is sometimes mistaken as a toll road. The fee, however, is not a toll charged to drive on the road, but rather to enter, and enjoy, the park. A $15.00 pass is valid for up to seven days (as opposed to charging by the mile, or by the day, as toll roads do).

Already a National Scenic Byway, in October 2008, it was announced that the Skyline Drive was designated a National Historic Landmark.[6] It was already inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

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